Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.

10/29/07

My Life, My Child

Life with autism is not a bowl full of cherries (neither for the parent or the child). It is stressful. Days are long. Nights are often longer. There is screaming. There is crying. There are IEP's and school issues to contend with. There may be therapy and doctor appointments. Yes, life with autism can be difficult. But autistic children do have souls and they have not been kidnapped. They will not die from autism, and no one should ever announce repeatedly in public that they have considered ending their autistic child's life. Autistic individuals deserve the same respect and rights afforded to every other human being.

The most important thing I feel I've done on this leg of my journey (autism that is) was to reach out to adult autistics. Today, with online communities, autism blogs, and published books, reaching out to autistic adults is rather easy. These adults have given me valuable insight into my daughter. They tell me their own personal stories, what they have gone through, what helped them growing up. Mostly, they gave me a whole new view of autism. Their stories and advice are priceless, and have changed our family and our outlook so much. I would suggest to any other parent to connect with the adult autism community. You will feel empowered and hopeful, for sure.

As a parent, especially when your child is first diagnosed, you pick up nearly every book on the the subject and then (of course!) you Google autism. Without fail, Autism Speaks is one of the first you will come across. I remember visiting it early on and reading their material. I watched a movie they had produced, Autism Everyday. I saw lives out of control. I saw children out of control. I saw horrible tantrums, parents who were desperate. I saw so much of my life in that film. I cried as I watched it. I could relate to a lot of it. For most parents, the next step is trying to find a cause, and therefore a blame.

For me, our daughter has had health issues since birth. She never had a regression. So, for me, it's apparent our daughter's autism is genetic. I feel she was autistic in the womb. Now, whether all cases of autism are genetic, I do not know for sure. I do think it's possible some children have an immune response to vaccines (I don't think it's mercury) and I don't think it would hurt to look at how we vaccinate our children (perhaps less shots at once, maybe). I believe the children who make almost overnight progress by dietary changes, probably did not have the same type of autism that my daughter has. It is possible that these children experienced behavioral and psychological changes due to allergies and intolerances. I never needed to find something that I could point to and say "YOU did this to my child!" For me, I just don't think that would be helpful.

Trust me, I have felt sadness. I have felt bitterness. I have felt desperate. I have felt heartbroken. I have those moments. I cry. I allow myself pity parties from time to time. I will cry, I sit and talk to my husband, I speak to other parents, I journal, I blog, I listen to music. I let myself feel those emotions, I identify them, and I deal with them. And then, and most importantly, I move on. I have chosen to focus on the positive. I truly don't think those experiences and the emotions I feel are unique to me, my situation, or to autism.

Life with autism has joy. There is hope. There is laughter and smiles. There is music and dancing. I made a choice to accept my daughter--all of her. I can't even say it was a choice, it was natural, she is my child, my flesh and blood. No matter what, I would love her and always will. Autism, or any other label or diagnosis, would never, could never change that! Making peace with autism sets you free to enjoy your life and your child. I do not feel like I've been cheated, not at all. My daughter has changed me, I find such beauty in the details. The little things, in life with autism, they are so significant and endearing. My children are both unique gifts and truly the greatest of all blessings. I would not change my life for anything.

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